Talansky Gave Olmert's Brother $30,000, Police Tell Court

Talansky's business partner David Friedland testifies in Jerusalem over suspicions American Jewish businessman made illicit payments to former PM, says he believes funds were sent to Olmert.

American-Jewish businessman Morris Talansky gave $30,000 to former minister Ehud Olmert's brother, the Jerusalem District Court heard on Tuesday.

Ex-PM is an ardent J’lem fan.
Ariel Jerozolimski

Olmert is on trial for a series of charges, including accepting illegal campaign funds. According to police suspicions, his brother Yossi served as an intermediary for Talansky to transfer the illicit money.

Meanwhile, Talanksy's business partner David Friedland told the court on Tuesday that he had seen in his office a cash-stuffed envelope destined for Olmert.

Friedland told the court about an envelope once sent to his office, which staffers told him contained cash. He later found a receipt detailing a sum sent from their business account to Olmert via FedEx, he said.

He was later told that Talansky had brought a wad of cash to the office, and asked staffers to count it and put it into an envelope.

Friedland told the court that on the night Ariel Sharon fell ill and learned that Olmert was to assume position of premier, he called on his partner Talansky to share the news. Talansky was ecstatic, said Friedland, and shouted into the phone that he had bet on the right guy.

In his testimony, Friedland said he had been unsettled by Talansky's enthusiasm and that his partner had tried to explain why he was so excited.

According to Friedland, Talansky told him that over the years he had bought Olmert cigars and ties, and described their other personal connections. Talansky then explained that he was in the process of raising money to cover Olmert's legal funds.

Friedland said he told Talansky not to get the office involved and that his partner promised he would not do it again.

Olmert's lawyer Navot Tel-Tsur interjected at this point, claiming that particular piece of testimony was hearsay and should be ignored by the court.

Friedland and Talansky were partners in the Kooltech company, a business that supplied minibars to hotels.

Friedland spoke at length about Talansky's connections and Talansky's ability "to open doors."

"There was no one with more than $100 in their pocket that [Talansky] did not know," Friedland said. "I was with him at an event one time and he was like a floating ballerina."

Friedland spoke of two instances in which Talansky contacted hotel owners. In the first, Talansky called Jewish tycoon Sheldon Adelson in order to be put in touch with managers of the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. In the second, Talansky called billionaire Yitzhak Tshuvah regarding the Plaza hotel in New York. In both cases, the contacts did not ripen into deals.

Olmert's media adviser said on Tuesday that the prosecution had turned the trial into a "circus."

During cross-examination, Friedland denied claims Talansky made to police that Friedland was bankrupt and escaped from the U.S. to avoid creditors.

Talansky testified the same court in May 2008 gave a deposition that over a 15-year period, he transferred $150,000 to Olmert.

Talansky described his custom of delivering cash to either Olmert or Shula Zaken, Olmert's bureau chief at the time.

In addition to the cash deliveries, he recalled about 10 occasions on which he used his credit card to pay Olmert's expenses. In some cases, Talansky said, he went to his bank specifically to draw out tens of thousands of dollars after Olmert asked him for cash.

During Olmert's mayoral campaign in Jerusalem, Talansky said, Olmert had asked for his help, and he responded that he would do all he could to get him elected instead of Teddy Kollek. He said he wanted to give Olmert a check, but Olmert said he would only take cash.

Talansky also said that back when Olmert was a Likud member, Olmert phoned him and said he needed a lot of money for the Likud leadership primary. When Talansky asked him how much, Olmert said $70,000. Talansky said he was in shock, and decided that would be the last contribution he made. However, he continued, he went to the bank and withdrew between $68,000 and $70,000 and gave it to Olmert. He said he believes that was the last time he contributed to a campaign.

Talansky said the envelopes in which he brought contributions from American donors in later years, when Olmert was industry and trade minister, contained between $3,000 and $8,000 each. He would not bring more, he said, because it was prohibited to bring more in cash on a flight from the United States. Usually, he brought the envelopes to Jerusalem and give them to Zaken.